Apple today rolled out its next-generation mobile operating system iOS 6, a release that will arm iPad, iPhone and iPod touch users with what Apple claims to be over 200 new features.
The new operating system is free and can be downloaded in iTunes starting today. It's not able to run on the iPhone 3G or first-generation iPad, but it will be supported natively in the new iPhone 5, which lands in Apple retail stores this Friday.
Apple has promised the delivery of hundreds of new features with iOS 6, including its homegrown Maps app, which replaces the Google Maps application featured in earlier versions of the software.
Apple said the new app includes vector-based map elements for an overall smoother experience when panning or zooming into specific locations. Turn-by-turn navigation is also included, and is available in Australia, along with a Flyover feature that lets users view what Apple refers to as "photo-realistic" and 3D maps from an aerial perspective.
Siri, the voice-activated assistant that debuted with the iPhone 4S, also gets a makeover in iOS 6. In addition to support for Italian, Mandarin Chinese and eight other new languages, Siri is more tightly integrated with Facebook and Twitter, letting users verbally post tweets and update their statuses.
Sports and music fans can also rest assured that Siri in iOS 6 is more in the know when it comes to players' stats, game scores and theater showtimes. iOS 6 also plays hosts to Apple's new Passbook app, which serves as a central console for users to store and access their digital "passes," ranging from coupons to concert tickets to airplane and hotel confirmations.
Downloading iOS 6 will also equip Apple mobile devices with a new and improved Safari web browser. Users will now be able to synchronise tabs that are open on their desktops with those that are open on their iPads and iPhone via integration with iCloud. Also new is the ability for users to snap photos and record videos without having to leave the Safari app.
Rounding out the lineup of major iOS 6 enhancements is FaceTime over cellular, a new capability that lets users make video calls over 3G networks, rather than just over Wi-Fi.
Apple's iOS 6 announcement comes just one week after the mobile giant took the wraps off its new iPhone 5. Apple sold nearly two million units of the new phone when it became available for pre-order last Friday, trumping the previous one-million-unit record held by the iPhone 4S.